Interview with Patricia Thompson M.Sc., Registered Nutritionist, Jamaica

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AODA Jamaica Country Representative

By Lisa Dorfman, MS, RD, CSSD, LMHC, FAND, CR Chairperson

With a passion and decades long career in the nutrition and dietetics field, Patricia Thompson has been leading the way—guiding clients, industry, the public and press and dozens of future dietitians on the islands of Trinidad and Jamaica.

It took us three attempts to connect by Skype, just one of the many challenges this tenacious Caribbean legendary dietitian faces day to day, as electricity, internet and power outages often impact her work schedule. Never-the-less, she continues to be as enthusiastic about being a dietitian today as she was when she began her career in the 1970s.

Meet Patricia Thompson

As a pioneer in the field, Patricia learned early on that a successful and interesting career practicing dietetics in the Caribbean would require thinking outside the box. A former high jumper and “net baller” athlete, Patricia used her competitive skills to challenge herself create a consulting business that was ahead of her time.

Armed with degrees in biochemistry and biology, Patricia completed a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition from the University of the West Indies more than 4 decades ago, after being attracted to the field working in a food science lab. The mother of three, she has practiced in clinical, community and sports dietetics. She currently divides her time between teaching, consulting, mentoring/precepting local and international dietetic students & her private practice.

Using her athletic background and professional consulting & teaching skills for swimmers and other athletes, Patricia authored several books including Caribbean Diets for Fitness & Sport Success to share with clients and colleagues worldwide.

Country Health Issues Impacted by Nutrition

Jamaica is plagued by the same dietary related issues as most of the industrialized world—obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease & cancer. While malnutrition still exists, the concern has more emphasis on the “mal” poor food choices verses underweight.

Opportunities & Challenges in Jamaica Dietetics

Since 1973, there was one regional university offering a Master’s Degree program in Nutrition. However since 2001, two local universities began offering the Bachelor’s degree in dietetics and/or nutrition.  However, there are no accredited traditional dietetic internships available locally but an abbreviated practicum/supervised practice for 12- 15 weeks in hospital and community settings. Continuing education is offered locally at an Annual Symposium or conference sponsored by the Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD) and every 5-10 years in conjunction with the Caribbean Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians (CANDi).

What are trends & changes you have seen in Jamaican nutritional care and coaching?

After becoming involved and attending conferences by AODA, and taking courses in Integrative and Functional Nutrition and with DIFM within the Academy, and at local medical conferences, Patricia sees a trend to integrate additional strategies to help Jamaicans live a healthier lifestyle including yoga, meditation and exercise.

Privately purchased insurance typically does not cover preventive and wellness care, requiring dietitians like Patricia to create cost effective ways for delivering sound, evidenced based dietary information since like most of the world, she is competing against allied health professionals, coaches and others offering all kinds of dietary advice. Cultural beliefs in detoxing aka “wash out” also challenge more balanced means for attaining optimal weight and health.

What inspired you to become involved with AODA?

As past present of the Caribbean Association of Nutritionists and Dietitians (CANDi) & Founding President of the Jamaica Association of Professionals in Nutrition and Dietetics (JAPINAD), Patricia is accustomed to be involved in leadership roles within the field. She was naturally attracted to AODA for its international, globally diverse membership, allowing her to meet, collaborate with and attend workshops and conferences worldwide.

Her greatest professional joy is mentoring others as she feels she wants to pass the torch to the next generation of up and coming dietitians.

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Keep up with Patricia’s Tropical Caribbean approach to food, fitness, Integrated Food and Nutrition Sciences – Caribbean Nutrition, Foods and Health; Caribbean Diets for Fitness and Sports Success; Caribbean Calorie Counter and Conscious Eating Guide; Caribbean Foods for Emergency Planning at her website: www.jamaicanutrition.com.

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